Tag Archives: Tech

Cell on Ice

A mobile mojito.

A mobile mojito.

Snowden shaken, but has not stirred.

I read somewhere last week that Edward Snowden, the flighty ex-NSA contractor, asked visitors to his Hong Kong apartment to put their mobile phones in his refrigerator. He was attempting to block the GPS signature of their devices in case they were being monitored to determine his whereabouts. What he was trying to do, in effect, was use his fridge as a Faraday cage*.

As is my nature, I was skeptical whether this would actually work. A fridge, it seemed to me, could just as easily be an enhancer of cell signals – a giant antenna what with all that metal and significant gaps for the rubber gaskets. So, being of a scientific bent of mind I tried an experiment. I placed my Samsung mobile in a large Samsung metal-clad refrigerator and dialed it. Voila! The in-coming ring could heard, connecting quicker than it normally does! So much for the rocket-science of a former NSA guy. (Could there be communication channels between all Samsung products? I’ll test another fridge when I get a chance.)

Not content to stop there I then put my mobile in the microwave. This common household appliance is manufactured with one of its express purposes being the blocking of … yes, yes, you’re getting warmer: microwaves! Try as I might, I could not receive a cell signal in this most useful of modern fixtures.

As an addenda, if you are the James Bond type, I have heard that an all-steel martini shaker works to block signals, too. My phone is too large to fit in the shaker at hand to test this hypothesis. And besides, it’s filled with mojitos!


* A Faraday cage, or shield, is named for the English scientist Michael Faraday (1791 -1867). It is a solid or mesh enclosure that blocks most external electro-magnetic fields. Mesh will work as long as its openings are smaller than the radiating wavelength.